I’m a little biased about Jamia Wilson having had the pleasure of knowing her and working with her as we both went through several career transitions during the last decade.
Gloria Feldt: In No Excuses, I asked, “When did you know you had the power to _____?” What have you learned about your power to _____ during the past year or so?
Jamia Wilson: In the past year or so, I have learned so much about faith and perseverance. I have faced many triumphs and challenges during a transitional time in my life and have learned so much.
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The rough edges and moments where I stared fear in the face taught me about the importance of courage and authenticity above all else. I have learned that I have the power to choose to be who I am authentically without apology and let that guide me towards realizing my dreams and my highest power.
As Janis Joplin said, “Don’t compromise yourself, you’re all you’ve got”. 2010-2011’s greatest gift to me was an appreciation for my own resilience and that to me is one of my most sacred superpowers.
GF: Was there a moment when you felt very powerful recently?
JW: I have learned so much about being powerful in the midst of times when I have felt powerless. The last few years have taught me a lot about the power of letting go.
I feel powerful each time I release myself from the clutches of fear and anxiety about conforming to a specific standard or potential judgment from others and trust in myself.
In Return to Love, Marianne Williamson wrote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us”.
The last few years has taught me so much about accepting, honoring, and nurturing my light and celebrating my truth without fear.
I had several experiences over the last year that pushed me to trust in my personal power, fight fears and step up and amplify my voice—this included going on TV for my first appearance on The Today Show, speaking on a panel with dynamic women like Gloria Feldt, Shelby Knox, and Gloria Steinem, and presenting at the Anita Hill 20th anniversary conference. I felt powerful being “me” in each of those spaces—and understanding and trusting in my voice.
If I were to align this lesson with a power tool I would say, I have felt most powerful by working toward defining myself on my own terms and basking in the glow of what that practice engenders. Being in the presence of women who embody, voice, and live this same purpose has helped me realize this vision and practice for myself.
GF: Which of the 9 Ways Power Tools have you used or do you particularly resonate with?
JW: It is so hard to pick one tool! I love them all—Know your history and Tell Your Story are two power tools that resonate with me the most.
My story has been informed by my ancestors and all of their sacrifices to make the world a place where I can thrive and realize my fullest potential. Their stories of transformation, and endurance guide me through the darkest times and have led me to use the power that I possess to make the world a better place for generations that follow. Honoring those who came and fought for justice before me motivates me to share my story and make an impact in my own unique way.
GF: For the first time in history, gender parity at work, in civic life, and in personal relationships seems possible—if we choose to make it so. That’s my take. What’s yours? What are the signs that tell you I’m right, or that make you think I’m overly optimistic?
JW: I believe that we have the power to choose how to respond to every situation that we face with the tools, resources, consciousness, and capacity to understand that we have at any given moment.
My father recently he gave me some excellent advice, he said: “You can only play the hand you’re dealt, because the hand you’re dealt is the only hand you control. Just make sure you play the cards you do have right”.
I appreciated his wisdom because it was hopeful while realistic about some of the barriers that exist within a world that is not always fair, just, or equitable for women, and women of color like myself and others from marginalized communities.
Even though the laws on the books might have changed, there are still social and cultural inequalities that make it so that many of us have to navigate the workplace, educational system, and civic participation differently.
At the same time, I will acknowledge that the change we make within ourselves and the efforts we make to be our best selves with the resources is always a positive step in the right direction toward parity. It is extremely important for us to “be the change” no matter what we face if we ever hope to take things to the next level.
GF: What other observations about women’s relationship with power or leadership do you want to share?
JW: I have gained a tremendous amount of wisdom by engaging, cultivating, and maintaining strong inter-generational bonds and partnerships with diverse women. Participating in several women’s circles and connecting with mentors and partners from a variety of different spaces has helped me grow and change exponentially.
I feel very powerful when surrounded by smart, dynamic, and fierce women—I always feel that my energetic frequency is elevated when it is a part of a community of women with strong, brave, and brilliant hearts and minds.
I have also learned that writing is an extremely cathartic and empowering form of expression and wielding one’s powerful voice. I am so blessed to have contributed chapters in two new books in the last year: Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and Women, Spirituality, and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power.
I hope to use my power to raise my voice even more in 2012 and beyond.
GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead. People has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”
As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.